Wednesday, May 03, 2006

A View from a Tractor

I grew up very much a tomboy and chose to play with the boys. When they let me play baseball with them, they put me far enough down in the batting order that I rarely got a chance to bat, and when we were out in the field, they put me in right field and then closed out right field--any balls hit in my area were considered an instant out. The boys learned how to bat and how to field a high fly; I learned how to watch.

And so today 50 years and 5,000 miles away from the empty lot where we played baseball, I am playing a supporting role in a ballet for tractors and front loader from the cab of a tractor. I am playing with the boys, but I have time to watch. I nudge the old red tractor out of neutral and into the lowest gear and we edge forward--the tractor, the trailer, and I--as the front loader scoops its bucket into the earth to capture the many rocks that sprout in this field. When the loader lifts its rock harvest and pirouettes to turn toward me, I stop, put the tractor into neutral and feel the weight of the rocks tumble into the trailer behind me.

The slow pas de deux with the frontloader gives me time to watch the other tractor further down the field. It moves single-mindedly up and down the field dragging the harrow behind it accompanied by a chorus of sea gulls. The gulls settle gracefully behind the tractor in a line stretching the length of the field with a marvelous efficiency. These gulls bear little resemblance to their urbanized beggar cousins. These gulls work for a living. And now they are working. The last of the gulls settles into the end of the line as the tractor makes its wide turn into the next row. In perfect order, the gulls begin their ascent and gently, wave-like the long thin line of gulls settles back into work. And so the choreography continues row after row.

I am called back to work and this time I nudge the tractor into gear and take off across the field closely behind my front loader. I turn very carefully so that the rocks do not heave and complain in the trailer. I bounce along over the ridges left behind by the plow trying to sway with the ups and the downs. With the bravado of a beginner, I flick from first gear to second, third, and then fourth gear. The speedometer reads 10 miles per hour, but I feel as if I am flying. I stop as the front loader dives and pirouettes and comes flying toward me with its latest harvest.

Even this small tractor has tires that are taller than I am. It is a climb to get into it. The seat is tall and throne like and set on springs that cannot quite smooth out all the bumps and ridges in a field or farm road. The cab has glass nearly all around so there is great visibility. It is a bit like a bird hide on wheels. From the cab I see not only the busy gulls but also wagtails and crows.

And from the cab in this field, I can see a selection of blues in the firth ahead of me. From ground level when I walk I see the firth and can note its temperament by the height of the waves, but it is only one hue. From the cab, the blues have their own choreography--pale blue green by the sandy shore edging into marine blue by the rocks and beyond in the deepest water. Medium blue where the water is warmer or moving quickly. And an occasional accent of white as a swell rises and peaks. I could watch the blues edging in and out of each other for some time, but the front loader is off and so I am across the field again in pursuit.

When the largest rocks have been collected and deposited into the trailer, I have the hardest job of the day. I need to make a slow, wide turn and get the tractor through the gate in the stone dyke (wall) around the field. It sounds so simple. I turn like a tugboat and move slowly toward the gate. It feels as if the tractor could take out Tokyo let alone a chunk of mortarless stone wall. I make a leap of faith---it came in through the gate, so it has to be able to go out. "Yes," says the voice of perpetual doubt, "but can you get it out?" The others in the ballet believe in me and need me to do my part, so I move slowly through the gate and realize that there was actually quite a bit of room. I breathe again and have the sense that the others do, too. I celebrate my success by bouncing up the rutted farm road in second gear and cast just one quick look at the ocean as I head for home.


At 8:14 PM, Blogger ZACL said...

You deserve your aromatherapy massages, especially after urging a tractor, of any size, to do your bidding and in the gale force winds we've recently had, sparkling sunshine or not.

Do tractors these days have PAS? Not likely I guess.

At 8:36 PM, Anonymous Amy Perry said...

From right field to rototiller to tractor . . . seems like a logical progression to me! I can easily imagine you carefully figuring and breathlessly maneuvering. A friend at work was just telling me this morning (dee-dee-da-da) that the origin for the numerous stone walls in that other island, Ireland, is the farmers' need to remove stones from the fields. They didn't want to carry the stones far, so they made walls out of them.

At 10:43 AM, Blogger landgirl said...

zacl, the day I got my facial at Beauty Box I came home and collected rocks from the field on the little bike while Morris harrowed. The dust coated my newly polished face so I looked like an extra from Oliver when I had finished! Even so, it was moeny well spent.

At 10:45 AM, Blogger landgirl said...

Oh, Amy, I have missed my rototiller. The kitchen garden would just fluff up nicely with a little Mantis action.
We have 15,000 square meters of dyke--we had to calculate it as part of the farming paperwork. I asked Morris how many stones that was and he declined to speculate or to calculate.

At 10:47 AM, Blogger landgirl said...

Zacl, what is PAS? The tractors have lots of knobs and levers and such that I was too cautious to even look at.


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